These little red fruits are a summer favourite. With their sweet flavour and bright colouring, strawberries can bring joy to any garden. But is there a secret to getting the perfect fruit? In this post I take a look at how to grow strawberries – and even unearth a weirdly cool variety.
The history of strawberries
Garden strawberries were first grown in Brittany, France, where they are known as ‘fraise’. However, wild strawberries and their medicinal links were actually first recorded in ancient Roman texts and strawberry plants were used to treat depressive illnesses.
By the mid-16th century, regular strawberry farming had reached the UK and was in high demand. People craved this sweet fruit, especially royalty. And it was in the royal courts that Thomas Wolsey created and introduced the ever popular strawberries and cream to King Henry VIII.
During this time, botanists began naming the different species of strawberry, including the F. virginiana from Eastern North America which gave rise to the modern strawberry.
A few facts about strawberries:
- China produces the most strawberries, with the US and Mexico in second and third place.
- The world’s largest strawberry was discovered in Japan in 2015, and weighed 250g. It was a mutation of many different strawberries which had fused into one.
- Strawberries have an average of 200 seeds on the outside of the fruit.
- There is a museum in Beligum dedicated to strawberries.
- Strawberries are in the rose family of plants.
Why grow strawberries at home?
If you’ve never tasted a homegrown strawberry, you might believe that store bought are just as good. Well, I’m here to say that homegrown strawberries are a million times better.
Firstly, they’re fresher. You don’t have to wait for the strawberries to go from being picked at the farm, to packing, to coolers, to trucks, to shop, to your table. You can simply pop outside, pick them right off the plant and eat them. Homegrown is much better for the environment – and for your bank account – and plays to the advantage of mushy strawberry haters. Why? Sweeter strawberries are often thinner skinned, and so get damaged more than their less-sweet counterparts in transit. Growing at home allows you to harvest sweet strawbs without the bruising.
Secondly, you don’t have to wonder whether any nasty chemicals have been used to make the strawberries bigger or tastier. With homegrown, you’re in control of what you consume.
Types of strawberries
There are three main types of strawberries. These are June-bearing, everbearing and day-neutral.
June-bearing are the most common, produce the largest strawberries, and fruit for around two to three weeks. Within this type, you can find early-season, mid-season and late-season, but most fruit around the month of June.
Everbearing strawberries produce a couple of harvest per year, with three being the maximum in perfect conditions. This type produces less runners (what the plant uses to propagate itself) than June-bearing strawberries.
Day-neutral strawberries produce a great harvest in the first year in which they are planted. They will then continue to produce strawberries throughout the spring, summer and autumn!
Which containers should I use to grow strawberries?
Strawberries can be planted in all sorts of containers. This is a great method of growing for gardeners who have limited space, or want to avoid lots of pest control tactics.
You can grow strawberries in a strawberry jar or pot, which is a type of container that features lots of different pockets for strawberries to grow. This method can require lots of watering, especially with strawberry jars made of clay, which can dry out easily.
A normal pot is fine for strawberries – just make sure it has an adequate drainage hole.
Hanging planters are a favoured method of growing container strawberries, as this keeps fruits clean and away from pests a little better. Hanging strawberries are easily drained, and the basket should be placed in the sun to get the best crop.
How to grow strawberries
Plant your strawberries in high quality, nutrient rich potting soil in either March or April, or September or October. In hanging baskets, around 3 plants per basket is the maximum recommended amount.
Water frequently as the new plants are growing and throughout the growing season. Apply a general fertiliser in the spring, then a liquid potash feed, such as Flower Power, during the growing season every week or so.
Protect your growing strawberries from birds with gardening mesh. You can usually find this at your local garden centre or home improvement store.
The fruit is usually ready between a month to six weeks after blossoming. Harvest when the fruits are juicy and rich red.
Keep an eye out for runners, which you can place in soil in separate containers to create new strawberry plants.
Other varieties of strawberries
Yes, white strawberries are a thing! Whether you think these strawberries are spooky or cool, they’re definitely unique, and you can grow them at home! The delicious taste isn’t exclusive to red strawberries, as these white strawbs are seriously mouthwatering. You can find them here to buy.
Unfortunately, there are many scammers on eBay and other sites who will try to sell you black, blue or even neon pink strawberries. Don’t fall victim to this! The closest that strawberries could come to black is a dark purpleish hue which may appear black in a certain light. But there’s no way that blue or neon strawberries could naturally grow from seed. Make sure you buy your strawberries from a reputable retailer and you’ll be safe from these types of scams.
There are, however, many possibilities for different coloured flowers…
The Gourmet Strawberry Collection
These day-neutral plants will establish quickly in the summer, to produce a steady stream of strawberries throughout the growing season next year and a lighter crop of fruits the following year.
The great thing about this range is they will start fruiting in June, all the way through to September. This provides an overall larger crop rather than the more traditional strawberry, that will produce a large crop of fruit once a year. Another benefit is they are a great addition to a family garden, as they are easy to grow and the continuous crop throughout the summer will mean delicious fruits are available to be picked almost daily.
The Delizz has a white flower and produces an abundance of fruit throughout the summer months into early autumn.
- It has an award for the best tasting strawberry in America (the first ever AAS strawberry winner).
- It has a brilliantly sweet taste, and a uniformed and compact size.
- Great for hanging baskets, containers and growing in the ground – very versatile for any garden.
Frisan strawberry plants produce light pink flowers.
- Plants even fruit on their numerous runners, which is perfect for containers.
- The fruit is juicy and sweet. Accompanied with the pretty flowers, it makes a beautiful attraction.
Toscana produces large, deep pink, almost red flowers.
- Same as the Frisan and Delizz, the Toscana is easy to grow and would make a great addition as an ornamental and edible garden plant.
You can find the Suttons 12x Summer Long Gourmet Strawberry Collection online on the QVC website here.